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Soniayekkalar

New Contributor
Nov 11, 2021
10
4
37
United States
Hi everyone! My name is Sonia and I just started a vegan takeout/delivery kitchen. English is my third language so please feel free to ask me questions if my sentences don’t make sense Hopefully, I can rephrase them.

After almost 5 months, I barely make enough money to cover our Chef paycheck (I’m paying from my pocket for rent, ingredients, advertising, …). I had savings for start up and I was ready for losing money for at least one year. However, I’m getting close to losing all my saving in the middle of the process. The quality of our food is really good (organic ingredients, no cross contamination..,) and our reviews are fantastic. The biggest problem I see is that my kitchen only serves customers with plant based life style. I’m vegan too and don’t want to add animal products to my menu. So I have been looking for a way to expand my options by adding gluten free items which helped a little but not significantly. I was thinking to sell our vegan breakfast bowl with vegan sausages gravy and sausage pizza which are our most popular items in whole foods market. However, I have a hard time to start working on this and understanding the steps (specially for packaging and nutrition label…). I would appreciate it if you can help me with understanding the process. I also love to hear your feedback and suggestions about my business. Is there anything I need to focus on before looking for an opportunity to work with Whole Foods? Thanks for your time. Your advice means a world to me.
 
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Yea, any niche food that is limited by geography will struggle, unless you pick a great location. Your only option is to produce items that can be shipped in a larger geography, hence increasing your total audience. Can you make any plant-based items that have a nationwide appeal? And can be shipped without spoiling?
 

Soniayekkalar

New Contributor
Nov 11, 2021
10
4
37
United States
Yea, any niche food that is limited by geography will struggle, unless you pick a great location. Your only option is to produce items that can be shipped in a larger geography, hence increasing your total audience. Can you make any plant-based items that have a nationwide appeal? And can be shipped without spoiling?
Thank you for your response! You are the reason we started to do something meaningful in our lives. This kitchen is our passion project not our source of income which makes the process more bearable.
Our kitchen is located in central Phoenix, Az. It might be surprising but Arizona is a very vegan friendly state compared to other places I have been. One challenge I see is regarding delivery radius set by DoorDash and Uber eat. We have people asking if we can deliver our food to their areas (Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale,…) but unfortunately I don’t have any control over it. I did some research and it is doable with special warmers designed for delivery purposes but it doesn’t resolve the delivery issue with delivery apps (and to be honest, I don’t think it’s a sustainable practice to burn gas to deliver one or two orders). If I can find a way to daily deliver my warm vegan breakfast and pizzas to local stores, I’m pretty sure we can start making money or at least stop losing money in a few months. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we still have a considerable potential customers in the neighborhood but I can’t distribute the products to them as long as I’m dependent on delivery apps that have so many limitations in addition to their high service fees.
 

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Thank you for your response! You are the reason we started to do something meaningful in our lives. This kitchen is our passion project not our source of income which makes the process more bearable.
Our kitchen is located in central Phoenix, Az. It might be surprising but Arizona is a very vegan friendly state compared to other places I have been. One challenge I see is regarding delivery radius set by DoorDash and Uber eat. We have people asking if we can deliver our food to their areas (Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale,…) but unfortunately I don’t have any control over it. I did some research and it is doable with special warmers designed for delivery purposes but it doesn’t resolve the delivery issue with delivery apps (and to be honest, I don’t think it’s a sustainable practice to burn gas to deliver one or two orders). If I can find a way to daily deliver my warm vegan breakfast and pizzas to local stores, I’m pretty sure we can start making money or at least stop losing money in a few months. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we still have a considerable potential customers in the neighborhood but I can’t distribute the products to them as long as I’m dependent on delivery apps that have so many limitations in addition to their high service fees.

Part of your problem sounds like location. Green (vegan fast food) in Tempe is always jammed packed. Being on (or near) a college campus is imperative. Central Phoenix is not exactly a vegan hot bed, other than perhaps getting some trickle through via Grand Canyon U.
 

Soniayekkalar

New Contributor
Nov 11, 2021
10
4
37
United States
Part of your problem sounds like location. Green in Tempe is always jammed packed. Being on (or near) a college campus is imperative. Central Phoenix is not exactly a vegan hot bed, other than perhaps getting some trickle through via Grand Canyon
Part of your problem sounds like location. Green (vegan fast food) in Tempe is always jammed packed. Being on (or near) a college campus is imperative. Central Phoenix is not exactly a vegan hot bed, other than perhaps getting some trickle through via Grand Canyon U.
I think we can transfer our kitchen to Tempe because the ghost kitchen facility we have rented our kitchen from, have another facility in Tempe.

I would be grateful if you share your opinion on opening a kitchen-market instead of renting a ghost kitchen. The rent is higher but less than double. In this way, we can sell our own products in addition to delivery options as well as selling popular vegan brands so people can do their weekly shopping in one store instead of spending time on different stores (I have to go to safeway, sprouts, Whole Foods to find all items in my shopping list). We even can add dining in option if we can find a location with enough parking spaces.
 

eramart

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If I can find a way to daily deliver my warm vegan breakfast and pizzas to local stores
I don’t know if you can pull it off, but maybe you can deliver those bulk orders yourself. I do remember a small fish snacks producer in Spain who needed to deliver his products (frozen) to several local restaurants and shops. He ended up buying ancient Peugeot refrigerator van for about 3k, got someone to drive it twice a week and made a profit.
 
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Soniayekkalar

New Contributor
Nov 11, 2021
10
4
37
United States
I don’t know if you can pull it off, but maybe you can deliver those bulk orders yourself. I do remember a small fish snacks producer in Spain who needed to deliver his products (frozen) to several local restaurants and shops. He ended up buying ancient Peugeot refrigerator van for about 3k, got someone to drive it twice a week and made a profit.
Thanks for your response. I guess we can handle the delivery part but my challenge is packaging and adding nutrition labels to comply with the standards. I think I need to find a reliable local packer/ distributor first. I found a good company but they said they are focused on beverage not food.
 

MJ DeMarco

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Have you ever thought about a food truck?

Central Phoenix is not exactly a vegan hot bed,

Actually there are a lot of vegan places in Downtown Phoenix, so your competition is pretty strong, considering you're not on a college campus.

So many other factors come into play, and the fact that this is a "passion project" and not a livelihood is concerning.

How is parking?
How is the food?
How is the presentation?
How are the price points?
How is your social media? (Vegan specialties are BIG topics on social media)

The fact that you're organic is going to raise prices and limit your audience, an audience which is primarily younger people... college kids are generally broke and many young people can't afford to pay $12 for a sandwich. Perhaps only be vegan, but not organic?

I believe the right location is the most important part of a project like this, backed up by food that is delicious and causes people to return.
 

Soniayekkalar

New Contributor
Nov 11, 2021
10
4
37
United States
Have you ever thought about a food truck?



Actually there are a lot of vegan places in Downtown Phoenix, so your competition is pretty strong, considering you're not on a college campus.

So many other factors come into play, and the fact that this is a "passion project" and not a livelihood is concerning.

How is parking?
How is the food?
How is the presentation?
How are the price points?
How is your social media? (Vegan specialties are BIG topics on social media)

The fact that you're organic is going to raise prices and limit your audience, an audience which is primarily younger people... college kids are generally broke and many young people can't afford to pay $12 for a sandwich. Perhaps only be vegan, but not organic?

I believe the right location is the most important part of a project like this, backed up by food that is delicious and causes people to return.
To be honest, now that I’m thinking about the kitchen, I think I call it passion project probably because I’m mentally trying to keep myself calm and avoid making emotional decisions such as adding non vegan items to the menu for a short time till we build our brand. I’m telling myself that we are not desperate for money to live a simple life so I can’t justify changing our value because of money. I’m working on the kitchen daily, reviewing the reports, answering the questions, finding vendors … it takes more time if it was only a real passion project!
We set our price based on acceptable non vegan restaurants(of course not McDonald and KFC). So our prices are less than most of vegan restaurants. That was the main reason we wanted to open a restaurant to offer fair price for people that care about the source of their food. But I think we can still reduce our price by removing organic products as you mentioned.
Most of our customers are returning customers which is really heartwarming and telling us our food quality and presentation are good but also shows us that we have not been successful in attracting new customers.
Regarding the food truck, I think about it almost every day!!! The only problem is that the initial investment is high (paying for both kitchen and truck is not practical for us at this time) and it’s hard to attract any investors based on our current cash flow. On the other hand, we need investment to reverse the situation. So, it’s a complicated situation.
Maybe having a food truck large enough to operate as a fully equipped kitchen can help to close the ghost kitchen but not sure if it’s a wise decision before discovering all options to make the current kitchen profitable.
 
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BizyDad

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You are actually not far from GCU. At least offering delivery there might make some sense. Get some grass roots marketing going there.

Create a secret menu, post a daily special from your secret menu on your insta and give people a reason to come in and try something "special". The secret menu is only available to people who show you the post.

I think some of the pictures of burritos and sandwiches on your Google listings need to go. Especially when compared to the pictures of the pizza or the ones with many of your items. Those pictures look vibrant. Most of the sandwiches and burritos look dull by comparison. If you have less pictures people will read your reviews, which are great.

Side note, can't wait to try your place out.
 

Soniayekkalar

New Contributor
Nov 11, 2021
10
4
37
United States
You are actually not far from GCU. At least offering delivery there might make some sense. Get some grass roots marketing going there.

Create a secret menu, post a daily special from your secret menu on your insta and give people a reason to come in and try something "special". The secret menu is only available to people who show you the post.

I think some of the pictures of burritos and sandwiches on your Google listings need to go. Especially when compared to the pictures of the pizza or the ones with many of your items. Those pictures look vibrant. Most of the sandwiches and burritos look dull by comparison. If you have less pictures people will read your reviews, which are great.

Side note, can't wait to try your place out.
You are right about pictures! :) vibrant ones were taken by professional photographer but over time, I took the pictures to save money whenever I added a new item. I will look into online photography lessons to learn some skills.

I will do some research on delivery to that area and talk to our chef about the secret menu. He’s not vegan but he is very experienced and really wants to help us to survive. Thanks for your tips! Can’t wait for your feedback on our food. Have a great rest of your day.
 

Trevor Kuntz

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I don't own and never have owned a restaurant but I know that repeat customers is often the only real path to profitability and that is why restaurants struggle most in the first year.

If you are looking to get more exposure to vegan and particularly organic vegan customers, I wonder if you could produce take-home vegan snacks and market them at Uptown Farmers Market?

There are a number of vegan sellers there but none that are restaurants that I know of and most of the people attending the market live in the central Phoenix area
 
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Soniayekkalar

New Contributor
Nov 11, 2021
10
4
37
United States
I don't own and never have owned a restaurant but I know that repeat customers is often the only real path to profitability and that is why restaurants struggle most in the first year.

If you are looking to get more exposure to vegan and particularly organic vegan customers, I wonder if you could produce take-home vegan snacks and market them at Uptown Farmers Market?

There are a number of vegan sellers there but none that are restaurants that I know of and most of the people attending the market live in the central Phoenix area
Thanks Trevor! I planned on going to a couple of events but due to high temperature in the area, they got postponed temporarily. I will check out the Uptown Farmers Market. Thanks for your advice!
 

Soniayekkalar

New Contributor
Nov 11, 2021
10
4
37
United States
Have you ever thought about a food truck?



Actually there are a lot of vegan places in Downtown Phoenix, so your competition is pretty strong, considering you're not on a college campus.

So many other factors come into play, and the fact that this is a "passion project" and not a livelihood is concerning.

How is parking?
How is the food?
How is the presentation?
How are the price points?
How is your social media? (Vegan specialties are BIG topics on social media)

The fact that you're organic is going to raise prices and limit your audience, an audience which is primarily younger people... college kids are generally broke and many young people can't afford to pay $12 for a sandwich. Perhaps only be vegan, but not organic?

I believe the right location is the most important part of a project like this, backed up by food that is delicious and causes people to return.
I plan to promote the kitchen on one of popular instagram pages. The page owner was so generous and he introduced the kitchen for free on his page when we opened the kitchen. Now I want to do paid promotion. He’s asking me about my budget and I don’t have any idea what are the criteria to propose a range. Is it based on the number of the followers and is it more standard fee? Thanks again!
 

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